Two Great Streetcar Stories

Muni’s historic streetcars, and the people who love them, keep gaining media attention, both in their hometown, and far afield. For your Thanksgiving weekend reading pleasure, we’re sharing two stories from the San Francisco Chronicle, and its associated website, sfgate.com.

Both stories show how the historic streetcars continue to attract new generations of fans, thanks in part to Market Street Railway’s continuing efforts aimed at exactly that goal. It’s a core part of our mission to keep the past present in the future, by making it relevant and delightful to younger San Franciscans and visitors.

Titillated passengers on the F-Bomb Comedy Train. Photo, PJ Crame, courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

First, some laughs. There’s now a comedy car on the F-line, at least once in a while. Here’s the story of the F-Bomb Comedy Train. A group charters a streetcar (in the case of the most recent event on November 25, a “Mint Milano“, and runs the F-line with performances by local comedians along the way. Next event is supposed to take place in January, but no specific date yet. The group says they’ll post info when available on their Facebook Group, where you can sign up for email notifications. So, please don’t ask us; it’s their gig, and we love it! (Note that part of our advocacy efforts in the coming year will be gaining SFMTA concurrence to expand opportunities for groups and people to charter historic streetcars and ride them on other lines besides the F and E.

Alex Key with the replica 1911 streetcar at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Photo: Nick Otto, courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

Second, an in-depth story about one of our valued volunteers at our San Francisco Railway Museum. He’s 16-year old Alex Key, profiled by the Chronicle‘s talented writer Sam Whiting. (Note that Chronicle content is kept behind a paywall; we think the link above should work, but if it doesn’t, a summary: the article recounts Alex’s amazing memory for transit history, current lines and stops (not just on Muni rail lines, but every Muni bus line BART, and other Bay Area transit systems as well), and his pleasure at helping visitors out with directions.)

We are very proud of all our dedicated volunteers, who interpret San Francisco transit history to our museum visitors, and often to E- and F-line riders as well. If you’d like to join our volunteer corps, just send an email to volunteer@streetcar.org.

No Comments on Two Great Streetcar Stories
Share

Ride, Join, and SHOP at Heritage Weekend

Muni Heritage Weekend, September 7 and 8, is the best two days of the year when it comes to riding a wide range of vintage transit vehicles — streetcars, cable cars, trolley buses, and motor buses — ranging in age from 44 to 136 years! You literally cannot do that anywhere else in the world, at any time.

And it’s also the best two days of the year to get your shopping done at our San Francisco Railway Museum, the center of all the Heritage Weekend action. That’s because Market Street Railway members AND all current SFMTA employees will receive a 20% discount on all of the merchandise in our museum store. That includes our 2020 calendar, our great selection of transit themed tee-shirts, hats, and other apparel, Muni logo gear, genuine cable car rail paperweights and plaques, books, a wide array of kids’ items, and more. Many of these items are not available online or in other stores.

Our museum store selection includes items specially for us by our board member Chris Arvin, a great designer recently featured here with his own great “merch”.

Get an early start on holiday shopping with many items you can’t find anywhere else. (The everyday discount for our members and for SFMTA employees is 10%. This special offer is for in-person purchases at the museum only, not in our online store. We’ll be offering our members who can’t come to Heritage Weekend a 20% discount period at our online store inn a few weeks.)

Not a current Market Street Railway member? We can fix that easily. For just $20, we’re offering a special six-month membership to introduce more people to our non-profit transit preservation organization. Sign up at our booth in the plaza across the tracks from the museum on Heritage Weekend and you’ll instantly be eligible for the 20% members discount in the museum. You’ll also receive the latest two issues of our quarterly member magazine, Inside Track, along with the next two in your six month membership.

But, as they say in infomercials, wait, there’s more. If you take the plunge on Heritage Weekend for a full year’s basic membership (at $45), we’ll add token of thanks, literally: a genuine Muni token, a little smaller than a dime, minted in the 1930s, and still valid for a single ride on a Muni bus or streetcar/LRV (a ride that now costs $3 in cash, by the way). We have a limited number of these, offered in person at Heritage Weekend only. And, if you choose our Conductor membership at $100 annually, you’ll get the token plus a 2020 calendar, a $14 value when you add in sales tax.

SFMTA employees don’t need to join Market Street Railway to receive the 20% discount on Heritage Weekend. The double discount (usually 10%) is our nonprofit’s way of saying thanks to the folks who keep San Francisco moving. But we hope that more SFMTA employees will join Market Street Railway for the other benefits of membership.

And because many SFMTA employees are at work during Heritage Weekend, we’re extending their 20% discount the following week, Transit Week, so it’s good for SFMTA employees through Friday, September 13.

But whether you take advantage of these special offers or not, come on down to Muni Heritage Weekend. It’s going to be the best one yet! If you absolutely can’t make it this year, you can still join Market Street Railway online, supporting our efforts that make events like Muni Heritage Weekend possible. All members, old and new, we’ll alert you in a few weeks to our 20% off online store sale, just for you.

No Comments on Ride, Join, and SHOP at Heritage Weekend
Share

Hear Mayor Art Agnos’ Inside Stories of Embarcadero Transformation March 21

Nothing has improved San Francisco more in the past 30 years than the transformation of its waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero. The city’s mayor at the time, Art Agnos, bucked some strong special interests to achieve the removal of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway in front of the Ferry Building, replacing it with a surface roadway, pedestrian promenade, and — of course — streetcar tracks.

Earthquake-damaged Embarcadero Freeway, 1990

Mayor Agnos was aided in all this by his deputy mayor for transportation, the late Doug Wright (who was serving as Market Street Railway’s board chair at the time of his death in 2014). Art Agnos will share inside stories of how he and Doug got all those things done — including making sure the tracks were laid for the future E-line — at the next edition of Inside Track Live at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street (across from the Ferry Building) on Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 7 p.m.

Today’s Ferry Plaza

Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, who was active in advocating for the waterfront improvements, will converse with Mayor Agnos and moderate questions from the audience.

The Embarcadero is part of Art Agnos’ legacy

This special event is free for Market Street Railway members. We request that nonmembers donate $5 at the door to support our mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Attendance is limited to 50 people. Please join us!

No Comments on Hear Mayor Art Agnos’ Inside Stories of Embarcadero Transformation March 21
Share

London Buses in SF: 1952

London RTL-type double-deck bus on Market Street at Eighth, 1952

The librarian for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Van Niekerken, comes up with some dandy articles by digging through the newspaper’s voluminous archives. Somehow, we missed this great story and photos, showing three double-deck London Transport buses coming to, and driving through, San Francisco on a cross-country British tourism promotion in 1952. The photo above shows one of the RTL-type buses (predecessor to London Transport’s famed Routemasters) on Market Street at Eighth, sharing the street with three “Iron Monster” Muni streetcars. The Whitcomb Hotel is on the left behind the bus, with the Fox Theater farther up the street on the right.

The London buses have New York bus license plates, as well as their own UK registration. And their roll signs read “GREETINGS FROM BRITAIN” in the square sign box, with “TO SAN FRANCISCO” in the rectangular box below. Presumably, that lower box could be changed to show whatever city they were currently visiting.

Because California’s overhead road clearances didn’t always anticipate vehicles this tall, they brought along telescoping poles that they could use to test the clearance before driving through. The photo below shows a tight squeeze going under the Southern Pacific Railroad trestle on El Camino Real in Colma. This is a particularly interesting photo. The old tracks for the 40-line interurban streetcar to San Mateo are still in place, and well south of the San Francisco city limits, we see a Muni White Company motor coach trailing the double-decker. That’s something of a mystery. During this period, Muni operated the developer-funded 76-Broadmoor line, connecting a new subdivision in Daly City to Muni lines in the city, but it never went this far south. (Maybe it was an escort vehicle, causing three steps behind the royalty of the double-decker.) There’s still a rail crossing at this point: BART, which took over the old SP right-of-way.

London double-decker squeezing under the Southern Pacific railroad trestle in Colma.

Muni did try out a double-decker bus at one point much later on, a demonstrator that didn’t catch on. For higher capacity, they chose articulated buses instead, or what the British, with their gift for great phrases, call “bendy-buses”.

And of course, double-deck buses are commonplace sights in San Francisco today, most of them open top tour buses. Tourists: don’t forget to come to the San Francisco Railway Museum to buy that sweatshirt that you DID forget at home! 🙂

No Comments on London Buses in SF: 1952
Share

“The Greatest Streetcar Museum in America”

    That’s the title of a great piece by Justin Franz on the Trains Magazine website today. Click the link and read it. It really says everything that needs to be said about the history and popularity of San Francisco’s vintage streetcar operation.  Thanks, Justin, for the story, and thanks, Muni, for the dedicated people who run and maintain these treasures. Just to be clear, the headline on Justin’s piece refers to the streetcars themselves, what we call the… — Read More

No Comments on “The Greatest Streetcar Museum in America”
Share

Buses & Streetcars: New Exhibit at SF Railway Museum

This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum. Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit… — Read More

2 Comments on Buses & Streetcars: New Exhibit at SF Railway Museum
Share

Unique SF Transit Gifts at our Museum Store

Looking for unique holiday gifts for friends and family, kids and former kids? Look no further than our San Francisco Railway Museum and Online Store. We’ve got a whole range of new merchandise you can’t find anywhere else, because we designed it ourselves in support of our mission to preserve and celebrate historic transit in San Francisco. We’ve got four new 11-ounce mugs featuring images from our Vintage Travel Series — original art we commissioned in the style of classic… — Read More

No Comments on Unique SF Transit Gifts at our Museum Store
Share

Muni Centennial Book Signing This Sunday

We’ve told you about the great Muni Centennial book created by five of our members. This coming Sunday, December 4, from 2-4 p.m., you have the chance to meet three of the authors, discuss Muni and San Francisco transit history with them, buy the book and have them sign it. This informal book signing will take place at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, right at the Steuart Street F-line stop across from the… — Read More

1 Comment on Muni Centennial Book Signing This Sunday
Share